Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Femme in Bloom

(All photos courtesy Ann Taylor)

Looking to Fall 2010, Ann Taylor is right on the money, particularly in the way the company serves up an abundance of delightful and fun clothing and accessories, all under the “Modern Luxury” headline. Co-mingling with the elegant attitude of the collection, is the company’s seasonal look-book - featuring editorial-style layouts, the British model, Karen Elson, photographed against softly-toned, studio backdrops, and descriptive copy, which portrays the collection, in part, as “inspired by the ideas of mixing European Sophistication with Timeless American Style”.

Hooking into all of this was Ann Taylor’s recent evening press event, held at the equally abundant, delightful and fun, Ace Hotel; a location which appeared to be also right in style and right on point, in order to promote the company’s clothing and accessories brand and message to the masses. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that the recently re-furbished venue, which currently seems to hold the title of boutique hotel du jour, might suggest that the powers that be at Ann Taylor were very smart in choosing this fitting type of hip, of-the-moment, setting, in order to show off its new wares, and its own, au courant image in the bargain.

Models sitting as a group

With a nod to presenting its name and offerings to the best advantage possible, this Ann Taylor event went for more of a casual, style-salon setting, via non-stop cocktails, delicious, finger foods; and of course, lots of beautiful well-groomed and well-dressed models; all having a blast of a time, chatting and laughing with each other (and the invited guests) in an array of live tableaux. For this editor, though, it really was hard to tell the guests from the models, simply because the majority of the crowd looked so pretty and so great, and as such, appeared to just blend in with the models, which perhaps was just what the company had in mind when it originally thought about and conjured up its model casting and guest list.

In the end though, aside from everything else going on here, it was the clothing and accessories that played the starring role, and in this case, mostly everything on show was cool, nouveau chic, breezy and covetable. Themes of old-world glamour and craftsmanship, the richest and socialites and European travel, all mix and mingle across a myriad of wearable coats, jackets, toppers, blouses, skirts, pants and the like.

It seems apparent that what the company’s design team favors, nearly across the board, are streamlined silhouettes and shapes, in terms of accents such as strong shoulders, feminine, nipped-in waistlines and decorative embellishments of ruffles, ruching, pleating, buttons, laces, and the like. Rounding out the collection are lush fabrics, chunked knits and sharp leathers, along with pointed and blurry prints (some of the best done here are in the company’s iconic, spotted leopard patterns). Notable is the attention to an authentic type of pretty-girl color, which generally comes across as fresh and nice, actually, especially when mixed in with all of the season’s de rigueur, expected tones of black, white, crème and greige.

Accessories certainly seem to have legs of their own, by way of the many European- themed, designer looks, which permeate this category. There are the sparkly jewels, which more often than not, are festooned to the max with Swarovski crystals, pearls, and ribboning. Then, there are all of the rich handbags and complementary footwear; the latter looking extremely strong, in terms of all of the buttery booties; high, riding boots; sporty and dressed-up flats, (many of these pieces showing more than just a hint of vintage sparkle and modern design), alongside an elegant grouping of classically stylized high heels.

Of course, an evening spent with Ann Taylor is always fun, whimsical and memorable. Other than the nifty setting, the food, drink, clothes, accessories, models, et al, there is always a lovely, parting gift. On this night, there was an elegant, black, shopping bag, featuring a fashion sketch of a pretty, long-haired, young thing, all wrapped up in a short, fitted, double-breasted coat, along with the company’s name, done in bold white lettering on the front side; filled inside, with silver wrapping paper, a look-book, the new V.V. Brown CD – “Travelling Like The Light” – and the company’s signature, sparkle estate necklace.

-- Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Monday, March 29, 2010

‘Bill’ of Fare

In Bill Cunningham’s Evening Hours column on Sunday, March 28th, entitled ‘Lions of March’, there was coverage of (among other things) a dinner and reception hosted by The Asia Society; the opening of a film, ‘Dancing Across Borders’, by society doyenne Ann Bass; an on stage dinner dance and recital for “The Nose”, held at The Metropolitan Opera; and the March 24th opening night of The Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA’s “New Directors/New Films 2010” (www.newdirectors.com). This was accompanied by pictures of Robin Hessman who would present “My Perestroika”, Shirin Meshat, who would present “Women Without Men”, and Babak Jalali, who would present “Frontier Blues”. There was also a shot of Richard Press and Philip Gefter, director and producer respectively of “Bill Cunningham New York”. The name of the documentary (which also kicked off the festival) was notably absent.

Is there anybody who would be in the least bit surprised to see that the title of the documentary which is all about Bill Cunningham, was nowhere to be found and was obviously omitted from the copy? Any one who knows the famously publicity shy photographer also knows how positively uncharacteristic it would be for him to do anything as self serving or self congratulatory, as to turn the spotlight on himself or to direct any attention to him (as Richard Press put it, he is “allergic to attention”). And true to form, Bill did not go inside the theatre to watch the docu-pic. He said he had never intended to do so. Instead, he left quickly (on his bicycle) after the guests filed into the theatre, to make his rounds for the night and cover the numerous events for The New York Times.

included in Bill’s pictorial layout about the opening night of the film festival were images of those friends and fans who showed up to pay homage to the famed shutterbug: Veronica Webb, Carmen Dell’ Orefice, Editta Sherman - Bill’s famed 98 year old longtime neighbor at Carnegie Hall (they’ve both subsequently had to leave and find apartments elsewhere), Kenny Kenny, and Patrick McDonald, a self proclaimed ‘dandy’ and longtime subject of Bill who also appeared in the film.

By the way, according to Fashion Week Daily, the two “unlikely” stars to emerge from the 88 minute documentary (that’s one minute for every one of Bill’s 81 years and 7 thrown in for good measure) were Patrick McDonald and Shail Upadhaya a onetime Nepalese diplomat who is always dressed to the nines in eye popping getups of his own designs. FYI: I don’t mean to take anything away from Shail or downplay his way with attention grabbing wardrobe items, but my definition of a ‘worthy’ style icon is not someone who goes about his day with the idea of being photographed in mind. Shail told me he literally stands around the tents from morning until Bill takes his picture. As they say in France, “Chacun on son gout”.

In the meanwhile, there are undoubtedly many (myself included) who did not get to the premier and would love to see the documentary. I contacted Richard Press last week to see if it might eventually have a wider release, and he said that’s what he is hoping for (no news yet). The director also told me that he has more than enough interesting material about Bill to easily fill up another film (“Bill Cunningham New York, The Sequel”?) At the rate he’s going, I have no doubt the octogenarian will be around, doing his fabulous thing, for at least another 20 years or more. Who knows, by then he may have mellowed to the point of actually wanted to see it.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It Fits the ‘Bill’

Bill Cunningham at Lookonline's video interview

When I initially heard that there was going to be an 88 minute documentary about Bill Cunningham, (“Bill Cunningham New York”, directed by Richard Press and produced by Phillip Gefter, which is to open the New Directors/New Films series on Wednesday at the Museum of Modern Art, www.newdirectors.org) my first thought was, “it’s about time’. And my second thought was that it was almost hard to believe that Bill would have said yes to such a project (knowing how private a person he is and how much he guards his privacy). But I suppose he has mellowed through the years and perhaps things that he would not have given his approval to decades ago, he would now be amenable to.

So much has been said and written about this true original, especially in the past few weeks, it has made me think about my own personal experiences with him, the amusing stories, and encounters from the past. I have known Bill Cunningham for about 40 years (yikes!) The first time he took my picture, it was the early 70’s and I was a young fashion assistant at Harper’s Bazaar. It was the middle of winter and I was walking past Henri Bendel (it was THE place to shop and be seen, and it was then on 57th Street right off 5th Avenue). I was wearing a fabulous tapestry maxi coat by Anne Klein - the real Anne Klein - which I still have, still fit into, and still adore), Gucci suede loafers, carrying a Louis Vuitton speedy bag, and sporting oversized sunglasses. A wiry man with a camera took my picture and I did not know who he was and I didn’t know where the picture would wind up. Not too long afterwards, as I walked into the Bazaar offices, all the senior fashion editors greeted me with the news that my picture was in WWD. There I was, one of those whose images appeared in an ‘On the Street’ kind of black and white montage photographed by Bill, featuring New Yorkers in their chic maxi coats. It was the beginning of a long photo relationship I would share with this iconic man.

Bill Cunningham devoted an entire column to Marilyn Kirschner during New York Fashion Week - February 11, 2001

One of the joys of being photographed by Bill is not the end product (the photo), but the entire encounter (his engaging optimism and pleasure, his sincere appreciation of individual style, his knowledge of fashion, etc.). It was obvious to me early on, that this man truly enjoys nothing more than fulfilling his senses, spotting great style (or finding a noteworthy trend), recording it for posterity, and sharing it with the world. He was the first of his kind and a forerunner of so much that would follow. With his amazing eye, he could tell stories and capture the essence of the moment. He always ‘got it’ and he still ‘gets it’. I could never believe his true age because he always had (and has) the spirit, curiosity and stamina of someone half his age if not much younger.

I am even prouder now that he agreed to let me interview him as part of the Lookonline’s American Masters of Fashion Interview series (click here for video). I was very flattered because he was not known for partaking in those sorts of things. Even though it was many years ago and admittedly, if I had it to do over now, I would ask different questions, phrase them differently, or change certain things, I feel the interview captured his essence and spirit and it still holds up. And what better time to share this than now?

By the way, there was a recent blog about Bill posted on ‘Lens’, the photography blog on www.nytimes.com, written by David W. Dunlap. I had to chuckle knowingly when he put in parenthesis, (Full disclosure as a Times employee: I adore Bill Cunningham, not only because of his work but because he calls me “young fellow.” I’m 57.) I always delighted in being referred to as “kiddo” or especially, “child”, one of his favorite endearing names. I found it sweet that he always referred to all of us as ‘kids’ emphasizing that we were so much younger than he was. Though on second thought, I can’t remember him calling me “child” in awhile. I guess that’s when you know you’ve officially grown up (or have officially gotten older.)

And for all those interested parties who have blogged about the movie, and stated they were attending the premier, expressing hopes that they might be ‘snapped’ by the man of the hour --they might want to rethink. In fact, they might have a better chance just being out on ‘the street’. According to Mr. Dunlap, “he’s not especially curious about his own bio-pic, though he respects Mr. Press and Mr. Gefter for having gone to the trouble of making it. When I asked him last week whether he planned to see it, Mr. Cunningham answered: “Run for the hills! Up into the mountains with a bag of lentils!” With that, he was off — not to the hills but back to the street.”

-Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, March 18, 2010

‘Tour’ of Duty

Kathleen Beckett

Kathleen Beckett, the well respected journalist and founder of Friends of Fashion, http://www.friendsoffashion.com/, a membership club whose mission is to support the fashion industry through regularly scheduled events, launched her Save the Garment Center Tour (STGC) this past Tuesday. She guided a group of 10, in addition to journalists from The New York Times Online, Wall Street Journal.com, DailyCandy.com. and moi (I initially met Kathleen when she was the Assistant Features Editor and I was a Senior Market Editor at Harper’s Bazaar), through three factories, all within a two block radius (35th to 37th Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues) giving us the opportunity to get an up close and personal behind the scenes look at the people and the factories that make the clothes and accessories we all know and love to wear. (FYI, we all wear many 'hats' these days and in addition to being editor-in-chief of the Lookonline, I am also the Style Director for Friends of Fashion, an organization I feel very strongly about).

Regal Originals factory

The first stop was Regal Originals at 247 West 37th Street, which is one of the last remaining factories for decorative stitching and pleating (there once were 400). It was there we were met by Roger Cohen, whose Holocaust survivor father-in-law founded the company 60 years ago. We were shown how the workers work their ‘magic’ on such high end labels as Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Nicole Miller, and Nanette Lepore, as well as the more popular priced clothing which is sold at J.C. Penny and Target. (FYI: the gorgeous red Marchesa gown worn by actress Vera Farmiga to the Academy Awards, was pleated at Regal Originals).

Custom Fabrics Flowers

Next was Custom Fabric Flowers, on West 36th Street, which has been offering their absolutely breathtaking flowers (in all sizes, shapes, colors) to the apparel, millinery and accessories industry since 1919, and is headed up by the son and daughter of its original founders, (Holocaust survivors), Debra and Warren Brand. Warren proudly took us on a tour showing how fabric flowers are actually made by hand to eventually adorn clothing by Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, J.Crew, St. John, and Priscilla of Boston (one standout was the enormous white flower that would eventually top a couture wedding dress by the latter).

A-OK Productions

Then we toured A-OK Productions on West 35th Street, where rows of sewers create designs by Anna Sui and Nanette Lepore (such as the dress designed by Nanette that Lauren Conrad wears on the cover of this month’s Seventeen Magazine).

I was especially touched by the personal stories recounted by both Mr. Cohen and Mr. Brand (who share a similar background with Holocaust survivor parents), and the way they both made it clear how very much like a family each and every one of their employers are treated and regarded. And each was very verbal and palpably frustrated by the dire situation facing the Garment Center, explaining why something must be done to preserve it.

Nanette Lepore Showroom

At the last stop, Nanette Lepore’s headquarters on West 35th Street, we were given a tour of several of their 8 floors in the building. The Friends of Fashion group was treated to a special treat: not only was the spring 2010 line available for shopping but there was a first time ever private trunk show for her Renaissance inspired Fall 2010 collection where orders were placed. As at all Friends of Fashion events, 10% of every purchase made goes to help the fashion industry. Veuve Clicquot Champagne was served and towards the end, Nanette Lepore appeared and addressed the group. As you know, she has been one of the most outspoken designers regarding the STGC issue (s she was the brains behind the Save the Garment Center Rally this past October) and as she put it, "It's imperative to keep the little factories in New York alive because they are important in solidifying the future of fashion”. WE want to be competitive in the world”.

So, if you want to ensure that the Rogers, Warrens, and Nanettes of the world will stay in business, you can make a difference through Friends of Fashion. It’s a way for fashion loving consumers to party with designers, shop in private (and much much more), and do GOOD. Become a member of FOF and a complimentary tour will be included with your membership. For more information, click on to http://www.friendoffashion.com/ or call 212 505 2157.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes

Delman, cocktail shoe, multicolor floral print with gold brocade,circa 1958, USA. On loan from Delman archive

On View at The Museum at FIT, March 9 through April 4

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) presents Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes, the first exhibition devoted to the Delman brand. Founded by Herman Delman in 1919 and today one of the oldest salon footwear brands in the United States, Delman’s glamorous, innovative, and classic shoes have been a cornerstone of the fashionable and quality-conscious woman’s wardrobe for the past 90 years. The company is known for embodying all that is chic, luxurious, and sophisticated. Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes will explore and reveal the company’s vibrant history of style, advertising, and fine craftsmanship.

Drawing from the permanent collections of both The Museum at FIT and the Delman archives, approximately 50 dazzling shoe styles will be presented alongside period examples of print advertisements, newsreel footage, and illustrated patents. These objects, dating roughly from 1926 to 2007, will chronicle the company’s rich history and creativity in both design and business.

Herman Delman’s savvy proficiency as a businessman and extroverted personality was frequently realized through his use of exquisitely illustrated advertisements and eye-catching window displays (the Delman store on Madison Avenue featured an oval window showcasing three cobblers at work), as well as his early understanding of the power of celebrity. His designs will forever be associated with iconic leading ladies of the Silver Screen. Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich all wore Delman, while today celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Blake Lively, and Leighton Meester are often spotted wearing the company’s designs at premieres and in photographs.

On view at The Museum at FIT from March 9 through April 3, 2010, Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes has been organized and curated by graduate students of FIT’s Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice program.

The exhibition celebrates the 90th anniversary of Delman and marks the 25th anniversary of FIT’s Fashion and Textile Studies graduate program. In conjunction with the exhibition, students of the graduate program will offer a series of gallery tours, with each tour focusing on a specific theme within the context of the exhibition.

For more information:
Cheri Fein
Executive Director of Public and Media Relations
212.217.4700; press@fitnyc.edu

Monday, March 08, 2010

2010 Oscars: 'The Last Word'

Sandra Bullock (in a glittering Marchesa) accepting her "Best Actress" award. (Photo: Oscar.org)

Diane Clehane's snarky minute-by-minute personal take on all the action last night at the Oscars. Diane has covered the Oscars in the past for People Magazine among other publications, and she is always a fun read!

Click here for article

Friday, March 05, 2010

Member's Market Report: Free Preview

Fall 2010 Calvin Klein Collection (Photo: Firstview.com)

The New York Fall/Winter 2010 Collections:
A ‘Platform’ for Change

When the tents folded up on Thursday evening immediately following the Tommy Hilfiger show, (the last of the fall 2010 season) it not only marked the end of another fashion week, or another fashion season, but the end of an era. Next season, as everyone knows, the fashion troops and a veritable army of fashionistas will march into their new home, Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park (and with all the military around, both on and off the runways, I can say that literally). There’s no doubt about it, a lot will change come September...

Click here to read the full report with 54 trend photos